David Regev on UX
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David Regev on UX

Where’s My Transit? App

Catch the bus or train on time!

Where’s My Transit? is a Web app that I designed for a course in 2018 at the Touro College Graduate School of Technology. This post describes its design process, from identifying the problem to the interactive prototype.

How might we catch the bus or train on time?

Where’s My Transit? App

Table of Contents

  1. The Problem
  2. Research
    a. Web Research
    b. Interview
    c. Survey
    d. Competitive Analysis
    e. Personas
    f. Lessons
  3. Design
    a. Customer Journey Map
    b. User Flow
    c. Storyboard
    d. Wireframes
    e. Paper Prototype
    f. Design System
    g. Digital Design
  4. Prototype
  5. Next Steps

The Problem

Catching the bus or train on time is difficult! We never have any time. We never have good information about when the bus or train is arriving. And apps that are supposed to help us with this are too complex to be useful. So, either we’re late or we end up like this guy:

Cartoon by KES

Research

Web Research

I began my research by searching for what people online have said about this issue, especially regarding MTA’s newer MYmta mobile app. I found that people have difficulty with the complexity of the app, when all they want to know is when the next train is arriving (emphasis added):

  • “Overall I find the MyMTA app has so many options that I can’t figure out what to do easily” (@bdeskin, 2018–10–10)
  • “However, it requires me to go three levels deep into the navigation — a task that might add unnecessary cognitive load for users who are trying to access information quickly. … It feels like more work than I need on an average day — I’m not usually trying to get exact directions; I just want to know when’s the next train.” (“Chasing buses — a UX case study”, Richard Lu, UX Collective, Sep 11, 2018)

Interview

I then interviewed one person, a frequent user of MTA’s Bus Time site. She lamented the amount of work it took to find out when the next bus was coming (emphasis added):

  • “If I’m standing next to the bus stop, it would be better if it automatically showed me that stop, rather than having to click on ‘search for nearby stops’.”

Survey

How do you use your devices to help you commute?

I next sent out an online survey: How do you use your devices to help you commute? It consisted of 6 closed-ended questions (multiple choice with an “other” option) followed by 1 open-ended question. I received 40 responses, which were 84% of all respondents, who took an average of 3 minutes for completion.

Left: What apps and sites do you use to help you catch your bus or subway? Right: How do you use these apps or sites?

The most popular apps and sites that people used to help them commute were, in order of popularity, Google Maps, MTA Subway Time, MTA Bus Time, and MYmta. The most common uses for these apps and sites were to get directions and to see when the next bus or train is arriving.

Some of the features respondents requested were alerts and immediate location-based information (emphasis added):

  • Alarm feature system. Set a destination and all the connecting vehicle options will automatically set for you and give you an alarm minutes before the time schedule. Example. I want to go to Stony Brook, Long Island from NJ. so the app will give you different options. from Path, Subway #, Buss#, LIRR, bus#. and if you choose a group set. it will give you a schedule alarm. Oh, and include the fare too.”
  • “A reminder service that would send you an alert when a bus is a certain amount of time away from a chosen stop.”
  • “The mta app should recognize where u are and give u information that you need At that location.”

Competitive Analysis

I also performed an analysis of the major competitor apps and sites to see how they solved the problems and to identify any other possible issues.

From left to right: Google Maps, MYmta home screen, MYmta stop info, Transit, Citymapper, Moovit

Personas

Two personas: the frequent commuter and the tourist

Two personas emerged from the research: the frequent commuter and the tourist. While most respondents were frequent commuters, I got enough responses from those who are not to discover the tourist persona. The frequent commuter is most concerned with time — arriving on time and saving as much time as possible beforehand. Meanwhile, the tourist is also concerned with time — not to arrive at work on time, but because time is limited while visiting the city. The tourist will be much more reliant on apps like Google Maps for directions, and might need help with the commuting schedule.

These personas have several different needs:

  1. You are near a stop and want to catch…
    a. a single bus/train,
    b. one of multiple buses at the same bus stop,
    c. one of multiple trains at different platforms,
    d. multiple buses at different nearby stops.
  2. You want to be notified when it’s time to catch your bus/train.
  3. You need to know when you should transfer to the next bus/train.
  4. You need to know if it’s worth it to switch to a different bus/train.

Lessons

Based on the research, I arrived at several goals and non-goals for my app:

  1. No directions (non-goal). Map apps, such as Google Maps, already do this job well.
  2. No extraneous information (non-goal). MYmta and Citymapper have this issue.
  3. No distinction between bus and subway. Having separate interfaces for these two modes of transportation is more of a artifact of managerial structure than a fundamental difference between each mode of transportation.
  4. The map should display real-time vehicle positions and their ETAs.
  5. The app should show stop-based information.
  6. The app should require as few steps as humanly possible.
  7. The app should also have alerts for recurring trips. You should be notified when it’s time for you to leave for your planned trip, so you don’t miss your bus or train.

Design

After the research, the design process had several stages.

Customer Journey Map

The customer journey describes how a user experiences the app:

Customer journey map for Where’s My Transit?

User Flow

The user flow describes how the app takes the user on that journey, which ends with the user happily on the bus or train:

User flow for Where’s My Transit?

Storyboard

The storyboard describes all the steps and options available in the app:

Storyboard for Where’s My Transit?

Wireframes

Building upon the previous steps, the wireframes lay out the structure of every screen of the app:

Mobile wireframes
Desktop wireframes (not included in prototype)
Wireframes for system notifications (not included in prototype)

Paper Prototype

The wireframes were redrawn and taped together to produce an interactive (controlled by me) paper prototype, which was tested on several people:

Paper prototype for Where’s My Transit?

Design System

Using Google’s Material Design system, this design system was created for the app:

Design system for Where’s My Transit?

Digital Design

Using the design system, individual screens were created for the prototype:

Screens from Where’s My Transit?

Prototype

Here’s a video demo of the InVision prototype of Where’s My Transit?:

Where’s My Transit? — UX Demo, by me

You can also try the prototype yourself:

Where’s My Transit? — Prototype

Next Steps

Several improvements could be made to the app:

  1. Show all nearby ETAs immediately on the home screen.
  2. Show more details in alerts.
  3. Integrate with the user’s calendar.
  4. Cloud backup of recurring trips.

I’d also love to get one of the competitors to incorporate the alert system. While apps like Transit do a relatively good job of showing when the next bus or train is coming, an alert system for recurring trips is still rare.

 by the author.

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